Saturday, 18 August, 2018

AT&T and Verizon face probe over mobile technology

AT&T, Verizon under DoJ antitrust investigation for possible eSIM collusion, report says Verizon, AT&T fall on report DOJ is probing collusion (updated)
Glenn Montgomery | 21 April, 2018, 13:54

The U.S. Justice Department has opened an antitrust probe of potential coordination by AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications, a telecommunications standards organization and potentially other providers to hinder consumers from easily switching wireless carriers, a person briefed on the matter said on Friday.

The technology is supposed to allow customers to switch wireless carriers without having to change out their hardware SIM cards.

"There is a constant problem with industry standards-setting organizations that on the one hand allow the industry to come together for the goal of efficiency but can be very anticompetitive and operate in secrecy", consumer advocate Harold Feld tells the Times.

Representatives for the Justice Department, GSMA and Apple declined to comment. AT&T and Verizon stand accused of seeking the ability to keep phone numbers locked to their networks regardless of eSim.

AT&T said it's aware of the investigation and has provided information to the government in response to its requests.

Representatives for the carriers and the industry group declined to comment to the Times.

Verizon spokesman Rich Young said in an emailed statement that the matter is "a difference of opinion with a couple of phone equipment manufacturers regarding the development of e-SIM standards". The newspaper cites six people with knowledge of the inquiry and alleges the wireless carriers worked in coordination to make it more hard for people to switch carriers. The company said it "will continue to work proactively within GSMA, including with those who might disagree with the proposed standards, to move this issue forward".

The investigation was opened after the Justice Department recieved formal complaints from at least one wireless carrier and one device maker. Read the NY Times report here. In that instance, the Justice Department claims that control of key content will give AT&T leverage to use against competitors and streaming services to keep prices high. Collusion to maintain their dominant positions in the market, assuming it happened, would be problematic and is the source of the DOJ's alleged investigation.

AT&T, which is fighting the Justice Department's efforts to block its takeover of Time Warner Inc., dropped 1.9 percent but recovered to close at $34.67, down 0.4 percent.

CNN's video below covers why the AT&T Time Warner trial matters.

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